So Elldrew joined the celebrity set recently to dine at what has been labelled ‘London’s hottest celebrity hangout restaurant’; the Chiltern Firehouse.
A former fire station in Marylebone, the restaurant opened in February 2014 and on first impression you can see why there is so much hype around this place – it boasts a modern and stylish décor (a lot of the original fire stations floor and tiling can still be seen around the room) and the open plan layout, that includes the kitchen and a small bar, is flooded by natural light from the large windows that were once the truck entrances. A perfect setting for lunch on what was officially the first day of summer.
Also of note are the staff uniforms…the Maitre d’s looked like they were fresh from a Issey Miyake runway, sporting what has to be the most fashionable jumpsuits we had ever seen. Even the wait and bar staff were sharply dressed, actually, we rather loved the the funky busboys/girls doning smart aprons and cravats.
We have had friends dine recently (both for lunch and dinner) and we had heard mixed reviews about the food, so we were eager to try the menu. With our friends fellow diners such as Rita Ora, Ralph Lauren and Orlando Bloom (we sadly saw no-one famous on our visit) we were looking to be wowed.
So, about the food. To put it simply, we disappointingly weren’t wowed…we felt the restaurant concentrated too much on style, rather than substance. The four of us ordered from the lunch menu:
Nibbles: Cornbread with smoked salmon crème fraiche – dare we say the best dish of the day!!!
Starters: 2 x Steak Tartare with pine nuts and chipotle – presented well, the fried bread crisps were delicious, but both of us had a strange fishy taste in the dish (possibly down to a particular herb, we don’t know). 2 x Firehouse Caesar with crispy chicken skin and parmesan – the crispy skin was an interesting addition but the dish wasn’t sensational, just a nice version of a classic Caesar.
Mains: Beef and Vegetable Hash with poached eggs & Hollandaise – a nice rounded hearty dish with balanced flavours. Crab Linguini with chilli and herbs – whilst this was the plainest looking dish (we didn’t even take a photo) we were surprised with the amount of crab and lovely flavours with a good hint of chilli. Blackened Salmon with kale and trout roe – the salmon was so soft and succulent, could not have been prepared better, but the kale unfortunately neutralized most of the other flavours. The dish needed a stronger dressing for balance. Steak salad with Heirloom Tomatoes – OK this was nothing like we expected (not necessarily in a postive way). It read as if the dish was a griddled steak with a lovely tomato salad but instead the meat came as a rare steak, cured in a fruity oil, then seared quickly (as explained by our waiter). The flavour was that of an Asian styled beef salad. If we hadn’t of liked rare meat it would have been sent back.
Dessert: Strawberry Sundae with milk ice cream & caramel swirl – another great looking dish but it was just OK. The Carrot Chiltern with cake crumbs, carrots & horseradish ice cream – again, had so much potential with some elements tasting great but the overuse of ingredients (the raw carrot shavings) overwhelmed the dish and let it down. Maple Peacan Tart with ice cream – a standard pie dish but had none of that lovely smokey maple flavours one would expect.
The service was great, we had a lovely waitress who was rather apologetic when 3 of the 4 cold starters came out to the table, but we had to wait another 5 mins for the second Caesar salad. A downside of modern ordering technology meant we had to be asked to explain what was in a Lemon, Lime & Bitters drink (the barman was only 15 feet away and could have explained just as efficiently) so it could be entered into the system, and more surprisingly, when our guests asked about booking a table for an upcoming dinner they were presented with a business card and told to call the central reservation number (they don’t take bookings directly at the venue).
So overall we had a lovely lunch, the food was fine, but we expected more…it was forgiven due to the rest of the experience but I guess our lack of fire analogies like ‘ it sizzled’ really sums up the day. Not sure how they can maintain the hype unless the food is ramped up a few notches but good luck to them…they clearly have an amazing PR team behind them.